John Shelby Spong

Image of John Shelby Spong
Paul's words are not the Words of God. They are the words of Paul- a vast difference.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Differences
Image of John Shelby Spong
The 20th century was a turning point; it freed and emancipated women, broke the back of segregation, and began the struggle to give justice to gay and lesbian people. But the Christian church, in both Catholic and Protestant forms, resisted every one of those humanizing developments. The church was on the wrong side of all three of those fights.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Christian
Image of John Shelby Spong
In the fall of 1988, I worshipped God in a Buddhist temple. As the smell of incense filled the air, I knelt before three images of the Buddha, feeling that the smoke could carry my prayers heavenward. It was for me a holy moment for I was certain that I was kneeling on holy ground....I will not make any further attempt to convert the Buddhist, the Jew, the Hindu or the Moslem. I am content to learn from them and to walk with them side by side toward the God who lives, I believe, beyond the images that bind and blind us.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Buddhist
Image of John Shelby Spong
I grew up in North Carolina being told that the Bible approves slavery and segregation, that it was the will of God.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: North Carolina
Image of John Shelby Spong
I ... look at Jesus and see a humanity open to all that God is--open to life, open to love and open to being.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Jesus
Image of John Shelby Spong
All human beings bear God's image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one's being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Respect
Image of John Shelby Spong
I've never met anybody who was helped by being told how wretched, miserable and sinful they are.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Miserable
Image of John Shelby Spong
I think if you're convinced that you're evil, and that God has had to rescue you, then the best you can be is grateful. But nobody ever loves the person they have to be perpetually grateful to. That's just not the way it works in humanity. You need to be set free. You need to be loved just as you are so that you can become all that you can be. That's the direction we have to turn the Christian message; when we do, it becomes universal.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Christian
Image of John Shelby Spong
The great biblical tradition says that loving God and loving one's neighbor are not two separate actions but two sides of the same action. It was the prophet Amos who bore witness to the fact that divine worship is nothing but human justice being offered to God and human justice is nothing but divine worship being lived out.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Biblical
Image of John Shelby Spong
The priesthood in many ways is the ultimate closet in Western civilization, where gay people particularly have hidden for the past two thousand years.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Gay
Image of John Shelby Spong
I think we have to recover our spiritual nature. The way we have interpreted Christianity does not do that.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Spiritual
Image of John Shelby Spong
My hope is that a religious consciousness will begin to rise, one based on enhancing humanity, grasping life in all of its complex wonder, having the courage to live fully, to love wastefully and to be all that each of us can be and that it will express itself in our national life in more earth centered, justice enhancing and humane ways.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Love
Image of John Shelby Spong
We have to start at ground zero and ask what it means to have a real connection with God and what it means to pray. We have to recast our whole understanding of God. We live on the other side of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Steven Hawking, a whole group of people who have recast the way we think about reality.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Zero
Image of John Shelby Spong
Papal infallibility and biblical inerrancy are the two ecclesiastical versions of this human idolatry. Both papal infallibility and biblical inerrancy require widespread and unchallenged ignorance to sustain their claims to power. Both are doomed as viable alternatives for the long- range future of anyone.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Ignorance
Image of John Shelby Spong
In that process of coming to know that which we name as divine, the God who is love is slowly transformed into the love that is God. Let me repeat that...We breathe love in, and we breathe love out. It is omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent. It is never exhausted, always expanding. When I try to describe this reality, words fail me; so I simply utter the name God. That name, however, is no longer for me the name of a being.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Love
Image of John Shelby Spong
There's no way a human being can escape his or her human-ness to be able to imagine God. We can talk about how we've experienced God, not what or who God is.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Who God Is
Image of John Shelby Spong
I look at American Christianity and I'm almost in despair. I don't want to be identified with it. The Christian vote in America is an anti-abortion, anti-homosexual vote. I consider that to be anti-female and anti-gay, and I don't want to be identified with a God who is anti-anything.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Christian
Image of John Shelby Spong
If the resurrection of Jesus cannot be believed except by assenting to the fantastic descriptions included in the Gospels, then Christianity is doomed. For that view of resurrection is not believable, and if that is all there is, then Christianity, which depends upon the truth and authenticity of Jesus' resurrection, also is not believable.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Jesus
Image of John Shelby Spong
Human wholeness can never be found in the denigration of another
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Hate
Image of John Shelby Spong
What the mind cannot accept, the heart can finally never adore.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Heart
Image of John Shelby Spong
The Hebrew scriptures say it's okay to enslave anybody except your fellow Jews. It says you should enslave only your neighbors. I say to people that means Mexicans and Canadians are a bit at risk if we want to be literal about the Bible.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Mean
Image of John Shelby Spong
The way you become divine is to become wholly human
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Way
Image of John Shelby Spong
I was raised pretty much a fundamentalist, but the one thing that fundamentalism gave to me was the love for that book and a commitment to read and study it. The difficulty is that I've read it all, I didn't skip around, I read it all, and when you read it all, you can't take it literally because you don't want to blame God for a lot of stuff that occurs in that book. There are some pretty violent scenes.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Book
Image of John Shelby Spong
The trouble is, the same thing that enabled us to survive evolution is also going to kill us, because in the final analysis, if survival is the primary motivation of every human being, then we will finally be in a situation where might will make right and only one person will survive.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Motivation
Image of John Shelby Spong
I think I can tell you how I experience God. I experience God as the power of life calling me to live, I experience God as the power of love calling me to love. That's the God I see in Jesus of Nazareth, that's the God I see in the fourth gospel.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Jesus
Image of John Shelby Spong
Prayer is not adult letters written to Santa Claus, and God is not some parent-like figure up in the sky who's going to take care of us.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Prayer
Image of John Shelby Spong
I go to a church here in New Jersey that is just a very exciting place, and I just love to be there on Sunday morning - I just sit there in a pew with my wife, that's all I do, but I'm very much a part of that congregation. We've got a fantastic rector,she brings in people from places like the United Theological Seminary in New Brighton, Minnesota, where you've got good teaching, and our people are being introduced to great material and they really respond. They're able to believe without crossing their fingers. And I think that's a real step forward.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Morning
Image of John Shelby Spong
Benedict XVI kept saying that homosexuals are deviant. They're not deviant. They're deviant only if you say that anyone who is different from me is abnormal.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Different
Image of John Shelby Spong
When I look back at the Christian faith, I see that we have had to retranslate, almost reinvent ourselves a number of times.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Christian
Image of John Shelby Spong
I still hope. I wouldn't be in this position if I didn't. I love the church. I love the Bible. But I think we're in a time where we're desperately in need of a great reformation.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Thinking
Image of John Shelby Spong
I began to read [Bible] as a critic, an in-house critic. So I got to a place where when I got to the university, I just couldn't reconcile that book and some of its points of view with stuff I was learning in my academic career. And so then you have a choice: either you give up your academic career and close your mind and become a constant fundamentalist, or you give up your religion and become a citizen of the modern world and get a modern education, or just spend the rest of your life balancing the two things together, forcing them into a dialogue.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Giving Up
Image of John Shelby Spong
I think Jesus is a fact of history. I think a man named Jesus of Nazareth lived and was crucified. I think his death interpreted his life in a fantastic way, because if you study that life carefully underneath an overlay of theology and mythology, you'll find that the power of that life was that he was constantly giving himself away. He was constantly calling people to be all that they could be.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Jesus
Image of John Shelby Spong
I get letters every week from people who live in rural Texas or rural Mississippi and who feel totally alone. They feel like they must be the strangest person in the world. They don't fit in to the religious milieu of their communities. It doesn't make any sense to them. They read some of my columns and they know that there's somebody in the world at least as crazy as they are, and so they write and say is there anybody else?
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Religious
Image of John Shelby Spong
I've probably read maybe by now fifteen, twenty books on Matthew. I'd say the authors I like best are an English fellow named Michael Goulder, who taught at the University of Birmingham in England, and he writes about the Jewish background in Matthew's gospel, which is part of what I was just talking about, which is just really thrilling to me.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Book
Image of John Shelby Spong
Biblical higher criticism is preserved in the particular enclave of academic Christian scholarship and is thought to be too unfruitful to share with the average pew-sitter, for it raises more questions than the church can adequately answer. So the leaders of the church would protect the simple believers from concepts they were not trained to understand. In this way that ever-widening gap between academic Christians and the average pew-sitter made its first appearance.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Christian
Image of John Shelby Spong
Some parts of the Bible are dreadful. In fact, my working title for The Sins of Scripture was "The Terrible Text of The Bible."
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Titles
Image of John Shelby Spong
The task of the church, for example, becomes less that of indoctrinating or relating people to an external divine power and more that of providing opportunities for people to touch the infinite center of all things and to grow into all that they are destined to be.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Opportunity
Image of John Shelby Spong
At its very core the story of Easter has nothing to do with angelic announcements or empty tombs. It has nothing to do with time periods, whether three days, forty days, or fifty days. It has nothing to do with resuscitated bodies that appear and disappear or that finally exit this world in a heavenly ascension.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Easter
Image of John Shelby Spong
In the private arena, you can do whatever you wish, and people do. These crazy evangelical preachers get on the radio and TV and say incredible things.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Crazy
Image of John Shelby Spong
When we unravel the theological tomes of the ages, the makeup of God becomes quite clear. God is a human being without human limitations who is read into the heavens. We disguised this process by suggesting that the reason God was so much like a human being was that the human beings were in fact created in God's image. However, we now recognize that if was the other way around. The God of theism came into being as a human creation. As such, this God, too, was mortal and is now dying.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Makeup
Image of John Shelby Spong
Every institution places its ultimate weight on preserving its own life. That is why the Church emphasizes loving God over loving one's neighbor.... The push for justice on the other hand might be at the center of the Gospel but it also attacks the balance of power in the society. Since the rich always exploit the poor, to give the poor power, dignity and humanity makes them less pliable, less cooperative.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Hands
Image of John Shelby Spong
You don't take your newborn baby, put that baby on your lap, and say, "Now listen, kid, you were born in sin, you're not worth anything, and you've got to pray for mercy." That's not going to raise a healthy adult. And that's what we do Sunday after Sunday after Sunday.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Baby
Image of John Shelby Spong
I would like the church to be a place where the questions of people are honored rather than a place where we have all the answers. The church has to get out of propaganda. The future will involve us in more interfaith dialogue. ... We cannot say we have the only truth.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: God
Image of John Shelby Spong
The Bible Belt, the religious South, is the section of the country that practiced slavery until the war made them give it up. They practiced segregation. They practiced lynchings. I don't see any great value in that.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Country
Image of John Shelby Spong
The Sins of Scripture is an interesting title; most people don't put sins and scripture together in the same title. It jars people.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: People
Image of John Shelby Spong
The God understood as a father figure, who guided ultimate personal decisions, answered our prayers, and promised rewards and punishment based upon our behavior was not designed to call anyone into maturity.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Prayer
Image of John Shelby Spong
Now, if Mary has an egg cell, then Jesus gets 50 percent of his genetic make up from his mother. And if his mother is a child of Adam, she, too,is fallen so Jesus is not perfect.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Mother
Image of John Shelby Spong
The hope for life after death must be separated forever from the behavior control mentality of reward and punishment. The Church must abandon, therefore, its reliance on guilt as a motivator of behavior.
- John Shelby Spong
Collection: Punishment